Aluminum wiring is electrical wiring that uses aluminum as the electrical conductor. Aluminum has been used for many years in homes, businesses, and other buildings as a cost-effective alternative to copper wiring. Though effective and popular, aluminum wiring has unique challenges when it comes to code compliance, safety, and maintenance.

If your home or business was built in the 1970s, there’s a good chance that it was wired with aluminum wiring. It is important to understand potential complications associated with this type of wiring and what you can do to ensure that your home has safe and effective electrical service. Keep reading to learn all you need to know!

Risks of Aluminum Wiring

The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission states that homes with aluminum wiring are up to 55 times more at risk for fire. Aluminum is more prone to corrosion, arcing, and overheating than copper wiring. Additionally, incorrect installation or improper repairs of aluminum wire can cause it to become loose or come apart at its connections.

If your home or business has aluminum wiring, ask your electrician to complete an assessment to check for the following.

  • Corrosion: Aluminum wiring can corrode over time and cause electrical shorts, which presents a safety hazard.
  • Expansion and Contraction: Aluminum wiring expands and contracts with temperature, leading to loose connections that can create arcs and sparks.
  • Overheating: The resistance of aluminum is higher than copper, so the same amount of current through aluminum wires generates more heat, potentially causing fires or equipment failure.
  • Poor Connections: Loose connections due to expansion/contraction or corrosion can lead to arcing (sparks) and overheating.
  • Voltage Drop: Since aluminum has more resistance than copper for the same size wire, it can cause a voltage drop in long runs resulting in decreased efficiency of power delivery.

It is important to note that most buildings with aluminum wiring are safe with proper maintenance and when inspections are performed regularly, but ignoring the risks can lead to significant safety issues.

Do You Need to Replace Your Aluminum Wiring?

You do not have to replace aluminum wiring unless it is known to be defective or poses an immediate safety hazard. You can manage the risks by ensuring that all connections are tight and secure.

However, there are several immediate and long-term benefits of replacing aluminum wiring with copper. With the guidance of your residential or commercial electrician, you should consider the costs of replacing wiring versus the potential risks of leaving aluminum wiring in your business or house.

How to Mitigate Aluminum Wiring Issues

Aluminum wiring can be dangerous if it’s not properly maintained, but there are ways to reduce the risks associated with it. One of the most effective solutions is using aluminum wire pigtails.

Aluminum wire pigtails (also known as COPALUM connectors) are an approved method for connecting copper and aluminum wires together safely and securely. They work by replacing a section of aluminum wiring with a short length of copper, allowing for safe connections between two dissimilar metals that would otherwise cause arcing or sparking due to corrosion.

With proper installation, these pigtails provide a secure connection that eliminates potential safety hazards from loose connections or overheating and dramatically reduces the risk of fire in homes or businesses wired with aluminum wiring.

Replacing Your Aluminum Wiring

If repairing your wiring is not enough, it’s time to talk to your electrician about replacing the wiring altogether.

You should never replace your wiring yourself. Aluminum wiring can be particularly dangerous because of its increased resistance, so it should be handled by a qualified professional.

Your electrician will inspect your wiring and confirm if replacement is necessary. If they find that the wiring needs to be replaced, they’ll install copper wiring, which can handle more current than aluminum. Copper is also easier to work with, less likely to corrode, and less likely to overheat.

Your electrician will also replace your wiring outlets and switches with aluminum-wire-rated components. These special components are designed to withstand the increased heat caused by aluminum wiring, preventing any potential safety issues.

If you’re concerned that your home or business might have aluminum wiring, contact a qualified electrician to inspect your wiring. They can help you make the right choice for your home or business and ensure that your electrical system is safe and efficient.

With the right knowledge and steps taken, you can ensure that any aluminum wiring in your home or business is safe and up-to-code.


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